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Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel
For those interested in keeping up with events in Palestine/Israel, there is no better digest than VTJP.

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19 June 2008

UN hopes Gaza truce will allow aid work to resume
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 6/20/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: The UN agency for Palestinian refugees said on Thursday that it hoped the truce in Gaza would enable the delayed construction of schools and clinics in the territory to go ahead. "We welcome the cease-fire as a very positive step toward improving the situation for the people of Gaza and the refugees we serve," said Chris Gunness, spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency. "We believe they might now be able to look forward in hope to a period of peace and calm. We need to get moving on some $93 million worth of construction projects which have been suspended for months. "He said the UN agency "urgently needs to move ahead with building new schools, new housing, clinics, repairing buildings. " Israel has said it will start easing its blockade on Gaza from Sunday if the Egypt-brokered truce deal with the Hamas in and around the territory holds.

Hamas: ''Israel violated ceasefire three times today''
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 6/19/2008
Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, stated on Thursday that Israel violated the first day of ceasefire three times, and warned that any Israeli violation to any section of the truce will seriously endanger its success as the movement will monitor the Israeli implementation of this deal. The Palestine Information Center, affiliated with Hamas, reported on Thursday that the Israeli army violated the truce three times and that these violations came only a few hours after the ceasefire practically started in the morning. The Center reported that Israeli navy boats fired four shells at fishermen in the northern part of the Gaza Strip, while soldiers opened fire at farmers east of Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. Also, eyewitnesses reported that soldiers fired at farmers in Khuza’a town, near Khan Younis, and fired at a number of houses in AL Qarara town, east of the city; no injuries were reported.

Israeli attack on Qalqilia leaves homes destroyed and brothers imprisoned
Mustafa Sabri, Palestine News Network 6/19/2008
Qalqilia -- At dawn Thursday Israeli forces invaded the city of Qalqilia in the northwestern West Bank. Known for being completely encircled by the Wall, the city has experienced more than enough hardship. However this morning Israeli forces demolished several homes which had been abandoned due to the difficult conditions faced by residents. They also destroyed the contents of several homes and arrested the five sons of Hassanain Hjul. The Hassanein family reported, "We were surprised when Israeli forces surrounded our house and fired an explosive at the home, and arrested all of our children. They brutally entered and destroyed all the interior walls of our house and also demolished a number of abandoned houses in order to overtake the land and intimidate nearby residents into also leaving. "

The whole of Arab ar-Ramadin threatened with destruction
Palestinian grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, Stop The Wall 6/19/2008
The entire village of Arab ar-Ramadin has been threatened with expulsion by the Occupation. This is the latest development in low intensity siege waged against the village since the Wall went up in 2004. The residents, who are completely isolated from the West Bank, have been fighting for years to remain on their lands. On June 5, an Occupation commander, accompanied by a force of 20 soldiers, arrived in the northern part of Arab ar-Ramadin. The commander informed the head of the community that the village needed to move to the other side of the Wall. Upon the villagers refusal to cooperate, Occupation forces threatened them, stating that they would be forced to leave. If the eviction is carried out, 207 people will be expelled. 30 homes and animal pens will be destroyed and an estimated 1,500 sheep, the main source of income for the people, will be adversely affected.

US mulls aid to Israel’s ''Iron Dome'' project
Ran Dagoni, Washington, Globes Online 6/19/2008
Iron Dome is intended to protect communities near the Gaza Strip from Kassam rockets. "Defense News" reports that the Bush administration is considering ways to help Israel develop defenses against short-range rockets, including $200 million in aid for developing and deploying the Iron Dome system. The Iron Dome is intended to protect Sderot and other communities near the Gaza Strip from Kassam rockets. A joint US-Israeli committee, set up last year by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak, is due to submit its recommendations on ways to help Israel towards the end of summer. A senior Ministry of Defense official told "Defense News" that the full cost of developing the Iron Dome and procuring enough of interceptors and support systems to protect civilian areas along Israel’s southern borders could reach $310 million.

Two hours before the truce: One Palestinian killed two injured as the army attacked Gaza
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 6/19/2008
The Israeli army conducted several air attacks targeting different areas in the Gaza Strip on Thursday at dawn, one killed and two injured local sources reported. Witnesses said that a Palestinian resistance fighter was killed and two others injured when Israeli F16 jet fighters shelled areas in the central part of the Gaza Strip. On Wednesday night six Palestinians were injured when Israeli jet fighters attacked a group of resistance men gathered in Gaza City. The dawn attack came only two hours before the truce deal between Hamas that controls the Gaza Strip since June 2007, and Israel took effect. Israel has announced late on Tuesday that it accepted the truce deal with Hamas that was mediated by Egypt. The Egyptian-mediated ceasefire stipulates that Hamas, which controls Gaza since June 2007, will halt the fire of homemade shells into Israeli territory, in exchange for. . .

Israeli settler runs over elderly Palestinian citizen in Qalqilya
Palestinian Information Center 6/20/2008
NABLUS, (PIC)-- An Israeli settler driving a car deliberately ran over a Palestinian citizen called Abdellatif Barham, 70, on the main street between Qalqilya and Nablus, near the Israeli Kafr Qaddum settlement, on Thursday morning. Palestinian eyewitnesses reported that the citizen was taken to a hospital, noting that this was not the first time in which Israeli settlers ran over Palestinian citizens on the same street. Meanwhile, a number of Israeli settlers blocked in the morning the main road near the Hawara checkpoint, south of Nablus in the West Bank and threw stones at Palestinian cars which caused heavy traffic congestion and some confrontations. The Hebrew radio also reported that an Israeli officer was injured during raids carried out at dawn Thursday to the east of Nablus. Palestinian local sources said that a large number of IOF troops boarding military armored. . .

Settlers set olive trees owned by Palestinian farmers on fire near Nablus
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 6/19/2008
A group of settlers from the settlement of Yitsahar located near Bureen village south of Nablus city in the northern part of the West Bank set fire to Palestinian owned olive trees on Thursday. Farmers said that the attack caused them heavy financial losses; they added that settlers also prevented firefighters from reaching the area which increased the damage. [end]

Four police officers injured in clashes with West Bank settlers
Nadav Shragai, Ha’aretz 6/20/2008
Four Border Police officers were wounded on Thursday in clashes with settlers, which erupted when security forces came to two illegal outposts near the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar in order to post evacuation orders and to demolish one caravan. Settlers said that 11 of the Yitzhar residents were also wounded, and that one lost consciousness. Several settlers were reportedly arrested after they locked police officers inside Yitzhar following the demolition of a caravan at the nearby illegal outpost of Havat Shaked. In addition to closing the settlement’s gate, the Yitzhar residents also punctured the wheels of the police officers’ cars in order to prevent their exit. A Border Police officer taking part in the operation refused orders to assist in the demolition of the caravan, and was arrested by his fellow officers.

Israel allows limited amounts of fuel to enter Gaza
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 6/19/2008
Palestinian officials stated on Thursday that Israel allowed limited amount of fuel, excluding car-gas, to enter Gaza, through Al shajaeyeh border crossing also known as "Nahal owzze" on Wednesday after closing the border terminal for two hours under the claim that the border officials received security alarms. Mohamad Showa, head of the petrol stations committee in Gaza, said that the crossing opened yesterday from 12 pm (local time) for limited hours, he added that during those hours, restricted amounts of gas, petrol, and processed fuel entered Gaza. Showa hoped that Israel will keep its part of the truce deal starting today to allow the continuity of limited amounts of fuel to enter to meet the amount that Gazans need. Israel has placed the Gaza Strip under total siege since June 2007, leaving the Strip lacking medicine, fuel and food.

Troops attack Qalqilia, five civilians kidnapped three homes demolished
Laila Ewaiwi & Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 6/19/2008
The Israeli army started a military operation targeting the northern West Bank city of Qalqilia on Thursday; so far the army destroyed three homes and kidnapped five civilians. Palestinian sources said that Israeli forces invaded the city on Thursday morning then surrounded the house of Akkel Hassanin, and then kidnapped four of his sons before demolishing his home and another nearby empty house. A fifth man, while walking in the street, was kidnapped along with the four brothers, witnesses said. Hassanin has a son who was a resistance fighter and was killed by the army several years ago. Local source in the city added that the military is still operating in the city. [end]

30 detainees transferred to administrative detention last week
IMEMC News, International Middle East Media Center News 6/19/2008
The media office at the Nafha Society for Defending Human Rights and Detainees Rights reported on Thursday that Israeli Prison Authorities issued 30 administrative detention orders last week. The office added that one of the detainees, Zuhri Lubbada, who is suffering from a kidney failure, is among the detainees who received an extension to his administrative detention orders. Lubbada was kidnapped by the Israeli forces on May 15, 2008, and is currently in a bad health condition at the Al Ramla Prison Hospital. Lubabada was deported to southern Lebanon in 1992, and in 1994 he was kidnapped by the army and was sentenced to two year. The society also stated that detainee Adnan Hamarsha, 37, received three months extension to his administrative detention remand. Hamarsha is the oldest administrative detainees as he was kidnapped by the Israeli forces nearly five years ago and remains under administrative detention without any charges.

Palestinian Journalists Syndicate slams attack against Palestine Newspaper
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 6/19/2008
The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate issued a statement of Thursday slamming the attack which targeted Palestine Newspaper when gunmen opened fire at the papers’ building and wounded its editor-in-chief, Mustafa Al Sarraf. The Syndicate demanded protection to all reporters and their facilities regardless of their political affiliations and added that this attack aims at inflaming tension among the Palestinians. Also, the Syndicate accused collaborators with the Israel army of carrying the attack. The Syndicate expressed solidarity with Al Sarraf and demanded all factions to act in order to expose the assailants. "We cannot be intimidated, and we will perform our duties", the Syndicate said in its statement, "We as journalists and media agencies should not be dragged into any internal disputes".

J’lem city hall refuses services to area beyond separation fence
Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz 6/20/2008
The Jerusalem municipality has refused to send a member of its veterinary services to the Ras Hamis neighborhood in the northern part of the city, in order to collect a number of stray dogs captured by local residents. Municipal officials told residents of the Arab neighborhood, located on the Palestinian side of the separation barrier, that they should bring the dogs to the Shuafat checkpoint, from where the city’s veterinary services would take the dogs. "A pack of stray dogs entered the neighborhood yesterday," said Jamal Sanduka, one of the residents. "Two [of the dogs] entered the yard of a house and killed almost 20 ducks there. They also chased children in the neighborhood," he explained. According to Sanduka, a number of neighbors managed to capture and cage two of the dogs, but despite repeated calls to Jerusalem’s municipal hotline, the city refused to send its workers to Ras Hamis.

Fatigued, Gazans don’t believe
Fares Akram, Ha’aretz 6/19/2008
At the office of Royal Star Tourism in Gaza City, only one person is still working, or rather is chatting on the Internet or attending to people who come in to use the photocopier the company possesses. During the past year, the firm fired four employees, as business dwindled due to the closure of the crossing points into the Gaza Strip. Ahmed Hammad, 29, the company’s executive director, says it became completely dependent on the Rafah crossing point, which was closed when Hamas took over Gaza last June. "The embassies no longer issue visas for Gazans because they expire while the bearers remain stuck in Gaza," Hammad said. He is pessimistic about the Egyptian-brokered cease-fire that was scheduled to take effect at six this morning. He says he understood the commercial crossings, like Karni, will be open in the early stages of the tahadiyeh (lull) while the Rafah passageway will be left for future talks.

Eager yet untrusting, both sides of Gaza border await calm
Fadi Eyadat, Ha’aretz 6/19/2008
People in both the Gaza Strip and the adjacent Israeli communities are waiting in anticipation for the cease-fire to come into effect. They long for quiet and security, but both sides will exploit it to prepare for the next war. Hamas, at least according to various Israeli military officials, plans to rearm itself. The residents of Israel’s border communities hope that a six-month lull will be enough to reinforce their towns and kibbutzim. "Maybe there’ll be a miracle and our houses will be reinforced, maybe Iron Dome. . . ," said Hemda Tzifroni, a member of Kibbutz Kfar Aza, referring to the missile interception system that is slated to be operational by early 2010. The cease-fire, which is supposed to begin Thursday morning, is being met with great doubt. "The relationship between us and Hamas is based on mistrust, and we already. . .

Military sources: IDF to pull troops if Gaza truce holds
Amos Harel Avi Issacharoff Barak Ravid and Yuval Azoulay and, Ha’aretz 6/20/2008
The calm in the Gaza Strip and the Israeli communities bordering the Palestinian territory was maintained throughout the day Thursday, after the agreement for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas went into effect at 6 A. M. Military sources said Thursday that if the one-day-old Gaza cease-fire holds, the army will redeploy some of its troops, currently stationed near the Strip, to other sectors or for training. At the moment, the troops are on high alert. The truce began a day after about 30 Qassam rockets were fired from the Strip at communities along its border, lightly wounding one woman. Moments before the truce took hold, the Israel Air Force killed a member of a Qassam rocket squad preparing to launch near the Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza. Palestinian sources said the man killed was a Hamas operative.

Report: Israeli siege claimed lives of 116 patients since beginning of 2008
Palestinian Information Center 6/19/2008
BRUSSELS, (PIC)-- A report issued by the European campaign to lift the siege stated that the number of the siege victims has risen to 116 Palestinian patients including children since the beginning of 2008 which indicates the Gaza Strip is witnessing a notable rise in the death toll of patients. According to the report, the total number of the siege victims since the Israeli siege imposed about a year ago, thus, has reached 192 patients. The campaign had warned that the specter of death is threatening a long list of patients who suffer chronic and serious diseases due to the lack of medicines and the Israeli restrictions imposed on travel for medical treatment outside the besieged Gaza Strip. The campaign underlined that the statute of the international criminal court defines "genocide" in article no. six as any action that would deliberately inflict on a group of people conditions. . .

Such is the meaning of a period of calm for Israeli forces in Gaza
Palestine News Network 6/19/2008
Gaza / PNN -- In a deliberate provocation Israeli forces killed one Palestinian and injured two others in the Gaza Strip Thursday morning, just moments before the beginning of the period of "calm. " Local sources and eyewitnesses report Israeli warplanes attacking the central Strip pre-dawn, targeting Al Bureij Refugee Camp. Rami Abu Sawyerh of the Hamas-linked armed resistance group Al Qassam Brigades was hit by shrapnel and killed. He lived in Nusseirat Refugee Camp. This occurred at approximately 4:00 am. The "calm" was slated to begin at dawn. The sun rises between 5:00 and 5:30 am. Local sources also reported that Israeli forces targeted a "point of union" for the Al Qassam Brigades, an area where they often met. In the air attack Israeli forces injured two other members of the armed resistance.

260 stranded Palestinians enter Gaza via Rafah terminal
Palestinian Information Center 6/19/2008
RAFAH, (PIC)-- The interior ministry in the PA caretaker government has said that 260 Palestinians who were trapped on the Egypt side of the Rafah border terminal were allowed access into Gaza Strip on Wednesday. The ministry in a statement appreciated the Egyptian facilities extended to those trapped citizens and expected "good news" for the Palestinian citizens in Gaza within the few coming days regarding the Rafah crossing. The ministry statement said that 5,517 citizens have registered their wish to travel abroad with the crossings department including 860 wishing to travel to foreign countries where they either have valid residence permits or visas. It noted that 605 students have won admission into universities abroad including 534 in Arab countries and 71 in foreign countries. The crossings’ personnel are ready to work round the clock to facilitate passage of those citizens. . .

Another migrant shot dead at Egypt-Israel border
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 6/20/2008
AL-ARISH, Egypt: Egyptian police shot dead an African man on Thursday as he tried to cross the border into Israel illegally, a security official said. Another 12 migrants - four Sudanese, three Nigerians, three Ivorians and two Ghanaians - attempting the same crossing were arrested, an official said. Over the last year, Egypt has arrested dozens of illegal immigrants, mostly Africans, trying to cross into Israel from the Sinai in search of work. At least 14 have been shot dead on the border this year alone, the official said. - [end]

Land mine explosion kills two Bedouin children in Sinai
Ashraf Sweilam, AP, Ha’aretz 6/19/2008
An old land mine killed two Bedouin children in the country’s Sinai Peninsula, according to an Egyptian medical official. Emad Kharboush, from the el-Arish hospital near the border with Israel, says the children, who were cousins, were playing when they stepped on the mine which went off, blowing their bodies to pieces. The children were identified as Moussa Himdan, who was 13 years old, and Abdullah Gomaa, who was 14. The explosion took place near the village of al-Qassima in central Sinai, an area believed to have mines left from the 1967 Middle East war with Israel. Millions of land mines are thought to remain following Israel’s occupation of the Sinai which ended in 1980, after Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel. . Related articles: Land mine from Second Lebanon War wounds foreign ordinance. . .

Egypt bends on Israel gas deal
Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani, Electronic Intifada 6/19/2008
CAIRO (IPS) - In the last two months, popular and parliamentary opposition to the sale of Egyptian natural gas to Israel -- at undisclosed prices -- has mounted. As a result, in a rare nod to public opinion, the government recently announced it was "revising" the terms of the sale agreement. "The government was finally embarrassed into partially addressing our concerns," Mohammed Anwar al-Sadat, former MP and spokesman for the recently founded Popular Campaign against Gas Exports told IPS. The full-scale export of Egyptian natural gas to Israel officially began on 1 May. A 2005 agreement between Egypt and Israel allows the Cairo-based East Mediterranean Gas, a joint venture between Egyptian and Israeli businessmen, to sell approximately 1. 5 billion cubic meters of Egyptian natural gas annually to the Israel Electric Corporation for a period of 15 years.

’Not like drinking tea:’ Assad rules out direct talks with Olmert
Elizabeth Roche, Daily Star 6/20/2008
Agence France Presse NEW DELHI: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Thursday ruled out holding direct talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on the sidelines of an international summit to be held in Paris next month. Assad and Olmert will be in Paris as guests of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is scheduled to announce the launch of a new Mediterranean Union - which would group EU members states and countries bordering the Med, including Israel - on July 13. Last month, Syria and Israel announced that they had launched indirect peace talks, with Turkey serving as a mediator, after an eight-year freeze in negotiations. "This is not like drinking tea," Assad told reporters in New Delhi when asked about the possibility of direct talks between the two. "The meeting between me and the Israeli prime minister will be meaningless without technocrats, who are the experts,. . .

Barak: Only U.S. can advance Israel-Syria talks
News Agencies, Ha’aretz 6/19/2008
Israel and Syria are unlikely to hold direct peace negotiations before the end of the year, especially without the involvement of the United States, Defense Minister Ehud Barak was quoted as saying on Thursday. Barak told French newspaper Le Monde that indirect talks between the neighboring countries, which are currently being mediated by Turkey, amounted to "preliminary contacts", not negotiations. "I don’t think we will have negotiations before the end of this year without the contribution of the Americans, who, alone, can help bridge the gaps," he said, adding he believed the United States would get involved in the future. But he said a meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Syrian President Bashar Assad could provide a psychological boost that could move the process forward.

Defense officials: No prisoner swap with Hezbollah this weekend
Yossi Melman and Jack Khoury, Ha’aretz 6/19/2008
The prisoner exchange between Israel and Hezbollah will not take place in the next few days, Defense Ministry official said Wednesday. In any case, such an exchange will not take place until the cabinet meets to approve the release of Samir Kuntar, whose freedom still depends on a 2004 cabinet decision to release him only in exchange for information on missing Israeli navigator Ron Arad. The schedule for the swap is still unclear, though it may possibly come next week, and no date has been set. It is also not clear whether such a swap would take place at the Rosh Hanikra border crossing, or whether, as in previous exchanges, it would be carried out in Germany, with two airplanes taking off at the same time, one from Tel Aviv and the other from Beirut, on their way to a German military airport.

Head of Lebanese terrorist’s village: We’re preparing for Kuntar’s homecoming Sunday
Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 6/20/2008
The head of the village Aabey, the birthplace of Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar, said Thursday that the preparations for the celebration marking Kuntar’s return have been completed, and that the celebration will likely be held on Sunday, barring last minute complications. Kuntar, a Lebanese Druze, has been jailed in Israel since perpetrating a terror attack in Nahariya in 1979, in which four Israelis were killed. Kuntar has been at the center of a speculated prisoner exchange deal between Israel and the Lebanon-based guerilla group Hezbollah, in which two Israel Defense Forces soldier held captive by Hezbollah since 2006 are expected to be returned to Israel. Village leader Nazih Hamzah made his remarks in an interview posted Thursday on the Nazareth-based newspaper A-Sinara’s website.

Likud warns Shas not to back alternative Kadima-led gov’t
Yossi Verter, Ha’aretz 6/20/2008
Likud leaders have warned Shas that the Sephardi, ultra-Orthodox partywill not be part of any future Likud government if it supports an alternative administration headed by Kadima. "If Shas betrays Likud again, it will remain outside Benjamin Netanyahu’sg overnment when we return to power," a senior Likud source told Haaretz. The source was referring to Shas’ "betrayal" in 2000, when the party voted against Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand to dissolve the Knesset and move up elections. Shas’ vote led to Ariel Sharon’s becoming prime minister. Senior Likud figures have made it clear to Shas that Likud will "not forgive or forget" if Shas gives its support to Minister Shaul Mofaz if he is elected Kadima chairman. Supporting Mofaz would cause an irreversible rift between Shas and Likud and end the alliance between them, the Likud sources said.

Leftists in Nablus demonstrate against rising food prices
Palestine News Network 6/19/2008
Nablus / Amin Abu Wardeh -- The leftists in the northern West Bank’s Nablus organized a demonstration against rising food prices Thursday. Masses of Palestinians gathered in the city center holding banners which called for government subsidies of the basics: rice, flour, milk and oil. Protesters also demanded the abolition of taxes and customs duties for food as prices skyrocket at a rate in keeping with unemployment. The march through the city streets rested at the Chamber of Commerce building where demonstrators chanted and then moved on. The leftist parties have a draft inviting the Palestinian Authority to reconsider its plans of "reform and development" by taking care of the people first and foremost. Nablus is rife with the impoverished, the unemployed and underemployed: years of nearly constant Israeli invasions, closures and aggressions against this city have guaranteed that.

Taxi and truck drivers protest fuel prices, clog main T.A. artery
Avi Bar-Eli, TheMarker Correspondent, Ha’aretz 6/19/2008
The protest against the climbing fuel prices came to a head Thursday as hundreds of truck drivers, taxi drivers and bus drivers came together to demonstrate their criticism of the state’s apparent indifference to the pressing problem. At 2 P. M. convoys of vehicles left from Ashdod, Jerusalem and Haifa, making their way toward Tel Aviv in efforts to converge in Tel Aviv and clog the city’s main artery, Ayalon highway, between 3:30 and 5:00 P. M. The police was holding the convoys off, but severe congestion was recorded in sections of the highway. The police has authorized 150 trucks, 200 taxis and 50 buses to drive on the highway’s rightmost lane and stop between the Halakha and Shalom interchanges. Police directed traffic to alternative routes, and advised commuters to use public transport on Thursday instead of driving into the city.

Cabinet assembly shows no sign of early completion
Anthony Elghossain, Daily Star 6/20/2008
BEIRUT: Efforts to assemble a national unity government and push through the second phase of the Doha process remained stalled on Thursday, with disputes between and within Lebanon’s main political coalitions throwing a wrench into the consultations regarding the distribution of cabinet portfolios. A source close to the cabinet negotiations told The Daily Star that talks "are increasingly complicated," adding that "it looks highly unlikely that a government will be put together before Tuesday. "Prime Minister Fouad Siniora told Voice of Lebanon radio that an "open crisis" resulting from an executive void would not develop out of the delay to form cabinet, despite what a Central News Agency (CNA) source close to the premiership said was a "lack of significant progress in consultations. " Key disputes in the deliberations involve the tussle for control over service ministries like. . .

Israel seeks Lebanon talks after Gaza pact
Rory McCarthy, The Guardian 6/19/2008
Israel seeks Lebanon talks after Gaza pact Israel said yesterday it wanted to open direct, bilateral peace talks with Lebanon, as officials confirmed they have agreed a ceasefire with the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas to begin in the Gaza Strip from dawn today. The talks with Lebanon would include discussions over the Shebaa Farms, an area of land held by Israel and claimed by the Lebanese. The overture appears to have been encouraged by the US administration and comes after indirect talks between Israel and Syria were recently restarted for the first time in eight years. The approach to Lebanon may indicate that an agreement is close at hand with the Lebanese group Hizbullah over the return of two Israeli soldiers captured at the start of the 2006 Lebanon war and who are now feared dead. Israel is reportedly ready to release some Lebanese prisoners in return.

The resistance speaks
Nicola Nasser, Al-Ahram Weekly 6/19/2008
The recent words of the highest commander of the Iraqi resistance, confident in the defeat of the US occupation. ’The resistance depended on the rules and principles of people’s wars and guerrilla war, after developing its fighting methods and tactics, and was innovative in its logistic and special operations. More important, it adapted the Iraqi environment to serve the people’s war. Through practice, it has developed the rules [of people’s war] very much, ’to move quickly’ so as to ensure ’all the land is ours and all the time is ours,’ and to be up to date to what is new from the enemy in order to confront it with innovative new [tactics] of our own’’The resistance depended on the rules and principles of people’s wars and guerrilla war, after developing its fighting methods and tactics, and was innovative in its logistic and special operations. More important, it adapted the Iraqi environment to serve the people’s war.

IOF troops kill Palestinian fighter in Gaza one hour before calm starts
Palestinian Information Center 6/19/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The IOF troops killed at dawn Thursday a Palestinian fighter affiliated with the Army of Islam and wounded two others when they shelled, just an hour and a half before the truce went into effect, a group of fighters east of the Bureij refugee camp, central Gaza Strip. Palestinian local sources told the PIC reporter the Israeli shelling led to the death of fighter Rami Abu Swureih and wounded two others affiliated with the Army of Islam who were transferred later to the Aqsa Martyrs hospital. In the West Bank, Palestinian eyewitnesses in the Hawara town, south of Nablus, reported that about 200 Zionist settlers from the Yitzhar settlement outpost set fire to three dunums of agricultural lands and other property. They also threw a volley of stones and rocks at one of the houses in the town.  According to the eyewitnesses, the settlers’ rampage caused serious material damage to a house belonging to Attallah Tako family in the town.

Two Palestinians wounded in an IOF air strike on Gaza; resistance retaliates
Palestinian Information Center 6/19/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- At least two Palestinian citizens were wounded on Wednesday in an Israeli air strike on northern Gaza Strip in spite of the tremendous efforts exerted by the Egyptian government to reach a "temporary" calm between the Israelis and the Palestinians. One of the wounded Palestinians was a member of the Popular Resistance Committees, one of the Palestinian resistance factions in occupied PalestineThe PRC’s military wing retaliated to the IOF air strike by firing two locally-made rockets on the Israeli settlement of Nahal Oz settlement. The Israeli occupation government acknowledged that at least one Israeli settler was wounded in the Palestinian reprisal. For its part, the Quds Brigades, the military wing of the Islamic Jihad announced it launched 18 of its home-made "Quds" rockets on the cities of Ashkilon and the Israeli settlement of Sderut The Israeli occupation. . .

Palestine Today 061908
Ghassan Bannoura - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center News 6/19/2008
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file || 3 m 0s || 2. 75 MB ||Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Centre, www. imemc. org, for Thursday June 19th, 2008. The Israeli army kills two Palestinians in Gaza, and kidnaps five civilians from the West Bank, these stories and more coming up stay tuned. News Cast The Israeli army conducted several air attacks targeting different areas in the Gaza Strip on Thursday at dawn, one killed and two injured local sources reported. Witnesses said that a Palestinian resistance fighter was killed and two others injured when Israeli F16 jet fighters shelled areas in the central part of the Gaza Strip. On Wednesday night six Palestinians were injured when Israeli jet fighters attacked a group of resistance men gathered in Gaza City.

UN warns Egypt against deporting Eritrean refugees
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 6/20/2008
GENEVA: The top United Nations human rights official on Thursday urged Egypt to stop deporting asylum seekers from Eritrea, saying they could face great risks in their home country. Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement that she was alarmed by reports that 700 Eritreans had been sent back by the Egyptian authorities in the past few days. "People who could well be at risk in their home country should never be sent back before their asylum claims have been properly addressed," she said. "Egypt should respect its international obligations not to send home anyone who could face torture or other serious forms of ill treatment, as may well be the case with those who have apparently been deported in recent days," she added. However, she welcomed Egypt’s decision last Sunday to allow the UN refugee agency to have access to Eritrean asylum-seekers in order to determine their refugee status.

Gaza truce comes into force, but both sides remain wary of breakdown
Sakher Abu El Oun, Daily Star 6/20/2008
Agence France PresseGAZA CITY: A fragile truce came into force in the Gaza Strip on Thursday amid skepticism over how long the Egyptian-brokered deal between Israel and the Islamist Hamas movement would hold. The six-month truce is the first since the Islamists seized the territory just over a year ago after winning democratic elections and defeating rival militias, triggering a crippling Israeli blockade. Underscoring the fragility of the deal, a Palestinian was killed by Israeli forces in Gaza City just minutes before the guns were to fall silent. "Hamas is determined to respect the truce and guarantee its success," spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said after the cease-fire took hold at 0300 GMT. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s spokesman Mark Regev said the Jewish state will likewise "respect all the commitments it made.

Gaza militants and Israel begin fragile truce
Peter Walker, The Guardian 6/19/2008
A six-month ceasefire between Israel and militants in Gaza began at dawn today, amid scepticism from both sides. The Egyptian-brokered truce was intended to end the violence that has killed seven Israelis and more than 400 Palestinians in the 12 months since the Hamas group seized control of Gaza. Israel has promised to halt air strikes and other attacks in return for an end to the regular volleys of rockets and mortars fired into southern Israel by Hamas and several other militant groups. If the truce holds, Israel will gradually begin to ease its punishing blockade of Gaza. While the ceasefire has been welcomed by civilians on both sides - Israelis in the south of the country are eager to see an end to rocket attacks, while Gazans are desperate for more supplies to be allowed into the territory - it remains shaky.

Calm for now
Doaa El-Bey, Al-Ahram Weekly 6/19/2008
Hamas and Israel agree to a truce that starts at 6am today - Hamas and Israel have agreed to the first phase of a truce in Gaza and negotiations on the release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier captured almost two years ago by Hamas, are expected to begin on Sunday. Amos Gilad, a senior aide to Defence Minister Ehud Barak, is heading to Cairo for talks with Egyptian General Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman aimed at finalising the truce agreement. Following the agreement to the truce, Egypt opened Wednesday the Rafah border with the Gaza Strip. Attempts to broker a ceasefire began to bear fruit earlier this week when a Hamas delegation visiting Cairo agreed to listen to the Israeli offer and give its final response on a ceasefire in Gaza to the Egyptian mediators. They met with Suleiman to discuss details of the truce.

Abu Zuhri: Calm fruit of people’s steadfastness
Palestinian Information Center 6/19/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said on Thursday that his Movement was committed to the calm with Israel and was keen on ensuring its success. Abu Zuhri in a statement said that the ball was now in the Israeli court as far as the commitment to the agreement on the ground was concerned. He noted, however, that the Israeli occupation forces preceded the calm with a crime in Juhr Al-Dik area in which they killed a Palestinian and wounded a number of others. Calm agreement is the fruit of the Palestinian people’s steadfastness in face of aggression and siege in addition to reflecting failure of all those wagering on weakening, toppling or bypassing the Hamas Movement, Abu Zuhri elaborated. The spokesman urged the world community to re-evaluate its position toward his Movement and to adopt the right step of recognizing its legitimacy and the results of general elections, which Hamas won.

Amid Palestinian hope, Israel not interested in calm
Palestine News Network 6/19/2008
Exclusive / PNN -- The Israeli - Palestinian "calm" in the Gaza Strip officially began at 6:00 am Thursday after two long months of negotiations. Israeli forces killed a man at 4:00 am. The leftists launched a projectile in response. Between the optimism and pessimism of many politicians and analysts the question remains: Is Israel interested in maintaining calm or will it fabricate excuses, as per usual, for its destruction and the resumption of the daily aggression against the Strip and its people? They killed a Palestinian shortly before the period went into effect. Spokesperson for the Hamas Party in Gaza, Sami Abu Zuhari, told PNN, "The Israeli occupation preempted the beginning of the calm slated for six o’clock today, Thursday, by killing a man. However, I can say that there are people who were able to reach their lands today that are near boundary areas; some Palestinians. . . "

Al Qassam: we are committed to the truce, if violated will respond hard
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 6/19/2008
The Al Qassam brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas Movement, issued a press statement on Thursday announcing the group is committed to the truce between Hamas and Israel. The group added that it considers this truce as a way to ease the hardships the 1. 5 million Palestinians living in Gaza are facing due to the Israeli siege and attacks. AL Qassam warned Israel that if its army violates the truce the Qassam Brigades response will be very harsh. In its statement the group announced the following conditions: 1- The Al Qassam Brigades is committed to the truce that was agreed on by the political leadership, as it is necessary for our people in Gaza. 2- The group will respond hard on any Israeli violations of the truce if the latter did not implement all the conditions of the truce. 3- The Israeli soldier that was adducted by the Palestinian resistance in June 2006. . .

Tenuous Cease-Fire Goes Into Effect
Sam Digel, International Middle East Media Center News 6/19/2008
Amidst great uncertainty the Egyptian negotiated ceasefire went into effect this morning between Hamas and Israel. Under the truce Hamas has agreed to halt the Qassam shell attacks against neighboring Israeli territories in return for an incentive laden plan that starts with the cessation of military action and could result in the easing of the blockade as well as the potential reopening of the Rafah crossing from Gaza into Israel. In an attempt to maintain the calm, Hamas has pledged to withdraw its fighters from the border, as the Israeli army has been ordered to show the utmost restraint. However even with these measures the early going has been shaky as the rules of engagement for Israeli forces remain unclear, except that if fired upon they may respond. On the other side, the numerous Palestinian factions have agreed to all abide by the truce, as head of the political-security. . .

Hebrew media: Barak agrees to conditions of Shalit’s captors
Palestinian Information Center 6/19/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Israeli war minister Ehud Barak has accepted in principle to release almost all Palestinian prisoners included on Hamas’s list in return for the release of the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, ministry sources said. The Israeli website Debka quoted those sources on Wednesday as saying that the approval would set free those with "blood on their hands", but still reservations are there on a "very limited number of prisoners". The website said that Amos Gilad, the political advisor to the war ministry, had conveyed this approval in a letter to Cairo Tuesday night after both Egypt and Hamas announced that a truce would take place as of Thursday morning. Barak had said on Tuesday night that Israel after the truce would have to take "difficult" decisions on the release of Palestinian prisoners as a price for the release of Shalit.

Abu Zuhri: ''Truce deals, a proof to that bets of weakening Hamas failed''
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 6/19/2008
Hamas media spokesperson, Sami Abu Zuhri, stated on Thursday that the Egyptian-mediated truce deal, which took effect on Thursday morning, is a victory to the Palestinian will and determination and is a clear proof that all attempts to weaken Hamas movement have failed. In a press release, Abu Zuhri stated that this agreement is a recognition of the legitimacy of the movement which was elected by the majority of the people. He called on the International Community to reevaluate its position regarding the movement. Abu Zuhri also added that the truce started on Thursday at 6 A. M and that his movement is committed to the truce and is determined to its success. He stated that now Israel has to prove its seriousness, and said that just shortly before the truce started, the army killed one Palestinian and wounded several others in the Gaza Strip.

VIDEO: Hamas TV shows how to abduct an Israeli soldier
Palestine Media Watch, Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 6/19/2008
A Hamas video broadcast on the militant group’s Al-Aqsa television station includes a simulated abduction of an Israel Defense Forces soldier. The video, which was released online by Palestinian Media Watch, shows the explosion of a mock IDF tank, after which Hamas fighters practice snatching a soldier from inside the tank and escape. Last month, Al-Aqsa TV aired a documentary that claimed that the "satanic Jews" planned and perpetrated the Holocaust in order to rid themselves of the "burden" of the weak and disabled. The accompanying commentary claims David Ben Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel, said that "the disabled and handicapped are a heavy burden on the state. "That movie also claimes that the "Jews thought up an evil plot to be rid of the burden of the disabled and handicapped in twisted criminal ways.

Noam Shalit: Gaza siege mustn’t be lifted until Gilad freed
Amos Harel and Jack Khoury, Ha’aretz 6/19/2008
Noam Shalit, the father of abducted soldier Gilad Shalit, strongly attacked Israel’s intention to lift the siege on the Gaza Strip in the framework of a cease-fire that does not guarantee his son’s return. In an interview with Haaretz, Shalit accused Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of violating his commitments - and of showing a lack of sensitivity for abducted soldiers. Shalit sent Olmert a letter on Wednesday, with copies to Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, with a demand to keep up the economic siege on the Gaza Strip as long as his son’s fate is up in the air. The letter also leaves open the possibility that Shalit will take legal steps to stop the implementation of an agreement with Hamas. Shalit added that the state’s handling of the return of his son reminded him of a "banana republic".

ANALYSIS / For truce architect, Israel chose lesser of two evils
Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 6/19/2008
The cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas, the very same organization that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said once again on Wednesday that we are not talking to, has one thing in common with the Oslo Accords. Just like Oslo, for the tahadiyeh Israel is paying in hard currency for general future commitments. This is not a case of "quiet for quiet," a formula proposed many months ago. Israel will remove, within days, a significant portion of its economic blockade of the Gaza Strip. Hamas, in return, has promised to renew contacts on the release of Gilad Shalit. The Egyptians in response are promising to work harder to prevent arms smuggling. But how do you measure honest efforts to advance the Shalit deal? Will intensive talks without a deal meet the conditions? It is not at all clear.

Strange noises at Africa-Israel
Dror Marmor, Globes Online 6/19/2008
With Lev Leviev’s attention perhaps elsewhere, things aren’t as smooth as they were. 1. Last year, Lev Leviev completed the transition of Africa-Israel Investments Ltd. (TASE:AFIL ; Pink Sheets:AFIVY. PK ) to the status of an international company. The name "Africa-Israel" was replaced on every document with "AFI Group", the group’s arm which manages its properties in Russia, and which is listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE), and the controlling shareholder himself, Leviev, moved to one of the UK’s most upmarket neighborhoods. Meanwhile, however, another five of the group’s publicly traded subsidiaries, remain on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) along with a good many deals and transactions in the local arena. Although they pale into insignificance in comparison with the massive investment overseas, the saying goes that the worst wheel on the wagon makes the most noise.

Tycoons lining up to buy Africa Israel properties
Michael Rochvarger, Ha’aretz 6/19/2008
Lev Leviev wants to sell Africa Israel’s yielding properties in Israel, or at least to bring in new partners, and it seems there’s no shortage of business barons slavering to help him improve his business empire’s liquidity. Group company Africa Israel Properties yesterday confirmed the report in TheMarker that for weeks it has been in quiet talks to sell yield-generating properties in Israel. However, the company qualified, it hasn’t entered into any official negotiations yet. Duly noted. But one way to view events is that Leviev has placed choice properties on the block and will sell each to the highest bidder. And the bidders are some of the biggest businessmen in Israel, who have been meeting with Zvia Leviev, daughter of and manager of the Africa Israel Assets Division, and other top Africa Israel people.

The true cost of white-collar crime
Guy Leshem, Ha’aretz 6/19/2008
The damage caused to the Israeli economy by white collar crimes, which are defined by the law only as fraud,totaled over NIS 6. 8 billion in 2007, according to thelatest data released by the Israel Police. The police report spending some NIS 300,000 on an average investigation of white collar crime, dealt with by three investigators for three months. Deputy Commissioner Basora Regev, who heads the strategic and statistical research section of the police planning branch, recently submitted a law doctoral thesis on the financial and quantitative aspects of law enforcement policy in white collar crime in Israel. Regev concluded that the average annual cost of white collar crime ranges between NIS 28 billion and NIS 30 billion, which is equivalent to 4. 5% of the country’s entire GDP.

Panel approves nationwide adoption of welfare-to-work plan
Ruth Sinai, Ha’aretz 6/19/2008
The welfare-to-work program known as the "Wisconsin Plan" will be expanded to include all Israelis receiving guaranteed income from the state, over 120,000 in all, if the recommendations submitted to the Finance Ministry this week by a committee created to examine the issue are adopted. The committee was appointed on the order of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to plan the extension of the program, which was introduced three years ago on a limited, experimental basis, throughout the country. Its recommendations were submitted to Finance Ministry Director General Yoram Ariav. "The state-wide deployment will contribute greatly to increasing workforce participation and reducing poverty in Israel," the committee wrote in its report. Its conclusions also pointed to the "significant successes" of the pilot program according to research studies, including significantly higher job placement. . .

End to Knesset not likely before winter session
Shahar Ilan, Ha’aretz 6/19/2008
Whether a bill for dissolving the Knesset will be approved during the summer session depends on which committee will deal with it, after the proposal passes a preliminary reading, Haaretz learned Wednesday. Next Wednesday a preliminary reading is expected on several bills calling for dissolving the Knesset. Bills that pass are sent to a committee to prepare it for a first reading. Two Knesset committees appear relevant in this case: the House Committee, since the question at hand is the dissolution of the current plenum, and the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, which dealt with issues of dissolving the Knesset in the past. The chairman of the Knesset House Committee, MK David Tal (Kadima) said Wednesday that "it is very possible that if I do not want the dissolution of the Knesset, I will only hold a discussion of the issue in the next [winter] session.

Ethiopian-Israeli lawmakers split over continuing Falashmura immigration
Anshel Pfeffer, Ha’aretz 6/19/2008
How many people of Jewish descent are left in Ethiopia? Between 5,000 and 300,000, depending which Ethiopian-Israeli Knesset member you ask. On one side is MK Mazor Bahyna (Shas), who claims, "There are more than 300,000 Jews in Ethiopia who are entitled to immigrate to Israel, and they should be helped to get here. "On the other side is MK Shlomo Molla (Kadima), who supports the official government position that the immigration from Ethiopia should be ended. The disagreement between the two lawmakers reflects the profound differences of opinion within the Ethiopian community in Israel. Some are calling to bring anyone who claims a connection to the Jewish people to Israel, while others do not see the Falashmura, whose ancestors converted to Christianity, as Jews, and say many of them are lying about their Jewish origins.

Meet the Lebanese Press: All the prime minister’s men
Hicham Safieddine, Electronic Lebanon, Electronic Intifada 6/19/2008
Size doesn’t matter when it comes to political pies in Lebanon. However, which piece of the pie you get does. This is what the second step in implementing the Doha accords, forming a government, has apparently boiled down to. Despite the short life expectancy of this government in the run up to parliamentary elections in a year’s time, re-appointed Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has so far failed to form a cabinet that will gain the simultaneous approval of the March 14 camp he belongs to, the opposition camp lead by Hizballah, and the newly inaugurated president Michel Suleiman. The disagreement has centered on divvying up what are termed "sovereign ministries," namely the posts of interior, defense, finance and foreign affairs. At one level, the rush to secure one of these positions by politicians of all stripes is a reflection of the age-old client system of governance in Lebanon in which

Iranian speaker heaps praise on Hizbullah, Hamas
Daily Star 6/20/2008
BEIRUT: Recently elected Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani praised Hizbullah’s secretary general, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, on Wednesday and described the Shiite group and the Palestinian movement Hamas as "pioneers of change. "Hizbullah and Hamas "are the pioneers of change in today’s world," Tehran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) quoted Larijani as saying. "During the course of the 34-day [summer 2006] war [with Israel], the global arrogance attacked with all its might the oppressed Lebanese people, assuming they could defeat Hizbullah’s fighters," Larijani said. He also accused US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice of having asked Lebanon’s ruling March 14 coalition during the war to create instability to get rid of Hizbullah. "The US secretary of state had at the time directed the March 14 group to shake the internal situation so as to wipe out Hizbullah," Larijani said, according to IRNA.

Report: U.S., Canada warn Hezbollah set to strike Jewish targets
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 6/20/2008
Intelligence agencies in Canada and the United States are warning of mounting signs that the Lebanon-based guerilla group Hezbollah is planning to attack Jewish targets in retaliation for the assassination of top Hezbollah man Imad Mughniyah some six months ago, ABC News reported Thursday. Hezbollah has blamed Israel for the February 12 assassination in Damascus, but Israel has denied any involvement. The intelligence sources told the American news network that Hezbollah was operating sleeper cells in Canada, and that senior Hezbollah operatives have left Lebanon for Canada as well as Europe and Africa. According to the sources, ABC reported, there is currently no specific warning of an imminent attack, but they added that Hezbollah operatives have recently carried out surveillance of the Israeli embassy in the Canadian capital, as well as several synagogues in Toronto.

Afghanistan superseding Iraq in ’war on terror’ - analysts
Waheedullah Massoud, Daily Star 6/20/2008
Agence France Presse KABUL: With Taliban rebels launching mass jailbreaks, threatening a major city and killing more foreign troops than ever, Afghanistan is replacing Iraq as the focus of the "war on terror," analysts say. The Islamist movement has dealt a series of stunning blows to President Hamid Karzai’s fragile government in the past week, causing jitters among Western nations who together have around 70,000 troops in the country. Hundreds of insurgents escaped from a prison in Kandahar on Friday and within days rebels had massed in villages outside the southern city, forcing 1,000 Afghan and NATO troops to launch a major offensive to drive them out. Democratic US presidential candidate Barack Obama spelled out his priorities if elected by saying Monday the real front of the "war on terror" was now Afghanistan and the mission in Iraq had been a disaster.

Report: Human rights activists in Arab world face countless threats
Ethar Shalaby, DPA, Ha’aretz 6/20/2008
Human rights defenders around the world face a wide range of government-initiated obstacles, including assassinations, arbitrary arrests, judicial harassment, unfair trials, threats and stigmatization, two human rights groups said Thursday in Cairo when unveiling their annual report. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) condemned the violations by governments in the Middle East and North Africa against human rights activists in a report titled "Steadfast in Protest. "Speaking of the violations against human rights defenders in the Arab world, the Director of (EOHR) in Cairo, Hafez Abu-Seida, said that placing legal constraints that hinder the establishment of human right organizations and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) is considered to be very common among Arab countries.

Ahmadinejad says he escaped assassination plot
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 6/20/2008
TEHRAN: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Thursday that his country’s "enemies" had planned to kidnap and kill him during his landmark visit to Iraq in March but a change of plans had foiled the plot. "Based on reliable intelligence, the enemies had planned to kidnap and kill the servant of the [Iranian] nation during the trip to Iraq," state television quoted Ahmadinejad as saying in a speech. "But with the change of one or two of our plans, their will power was shaken. They found out when we had left Iraq and they remained confounded," he added, without elaborating. Ahmadinejad traveled to Iraq in early March in the first ever visit by an Iranian president, symbolizing the flourishing ties between Tehran and the new Shiite-led government in Baghdad. - AFP Tags: Iran, Iraq, Tehran Printable Version Send to a friend

Strange bedfellows
Ayman El-Amir, Al-Ahram Weekly 6/19/2008
U-Med faces the same obstacles as the Barcelona process and has no clearer idea how to circumvent them - President Nicolas Sarkozy of France has invited south Mediterranean presidents and heads of state to a summit in mid-July to shore up support for the much- criticised Union of the Mediterranean initiative, recently renamed the Union for the Mediterranean in an attempt to allay the fears of some of France’s European allies and contain the criticisms of potential partners from the south Mediterranean, led by rebellious Libya. Other coastal states, including Spain and Italy, are wary that the new union will undermine the Euro- Mediterranean Partnership launched by the Barcelona process some 13 years ago. Seeking a higher profile role in Europe and regional leadership of the Mediterranean may be a legitimate quest for Sarkozy but if he wants to confront serious challenges and win accolades

So what’s new?
Galal Nassar, Al-Ahram Weekly 6/19/2008
Whether war on Iran happens or not, tensions in the region are rising to breaking point - Suddenly it would seem the region is edging towards a combination of stability and security that has been conspicuously absent since this US administration came to power eight years ago. In Lebanon, Michel Suleiman has been elected as president and Fouad Al-Siniora is forming a new government. In Yemen, the government says it is on target to subdue the Huthis rebellion in Saada. In Gaza, a truce in the making, between the Zionist entity and the Palestinian resistance, may bring an end to the economic suffering caused by the Israeli blockade. In Iraq, the government of Nuri Al-Maliki is about to offer a general amnesty for Iraqi insurgents who lay down their arms. The US, for a change, has stopped threatening to bomb Iran so long as the latter cooperates with Mohamed El-Baradei, the man the UN asked to check on Tehran’s nuclear programme.


Palestinians prisoners in Israel isolated from outside world
Press Release, Al Mezan, Electronic Intifada 6/19/2008
      On 17 June 2008, Adalah filed a petition to the Israeli high court on behalf of eight family members of Palestinian political prisoners from the Gaza Strip, the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights (Gaza) and the Association for the Palestinian Prisoners demanding that residents of Gaza be permitted to visit their relatives being held in Israeli prisons on a regular basis. The case was filed by Adalah attorney Abeer Baker against the defense minister, the commander of the Israeli army for the southern district and the interior minister.
     Since June 2006, following the capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, the Israeli security authorities began to impose even greater obstacles and constraints than in the past on family visits to prisoners from the Gaza Strip. These restrictions culminated in a decision by the Israeli army in June 2007 to place a total ban on visits by the families of prisoners from Gaza, alongside the severe restrictions imposed on all residents of Gaza.
     Prohibiting family visits in practice means that Palestinian prisoners are prevented from receiving basic necessities in prison, including clothing and money, as visits are the prisoners’ sole means of contact with the outside world. The transfer of money to a prisoner’s account necessitates the presence of a member of the prisoner’s family in the prison.

’Zionism, a very clear ideology of exclusion, racism and expulsion’ - exiled Israeli academic

Apostolis Fotiadis, Daily Star 6/20/2008
      Interview with Ilan Pappe
     Inter Press Service, ATHENS: Support for an academic boycott of Israeli universities exposed Ilan Pappe to death threats last year, forced him to resign as senior lecturer of political science at the University of Haifa, and leave the country. His argument that the creation of Israel in 1948 was followed by a policy of cleansing Israeli territory of Arabs, his support for the Hamas resistance despite rejecting its political ideology, and the denouncement of Israeli academia for justifying the occupation of Palestine have made him an unwanted person in Israel.
     But still he remains a firm believer that the only way to improve this reality is by exposing its worst aspects.
     In an interview with IPS, Pappe discusses the current situation in Palestine, and the Arab-Israeli conflict 60 years after it began.
     IPS: Can Barack Obama’s victory make a difference.
     IP: I think people who strive to hold the post of the strongest person in the world are not interested in moral issues, or are really moved by suffering and oppression. Obama is no different, and the morality of the issue or the suffering of the Palestinians would not move him. He would move in a different direction if he and his advisers would feel that showing less support for Israel enhances their political power. So far this is not the case. It is better to be pro-Israeli to win American elections and be re-elected for the second term. If there is any hope, this is from a second term, when the powerful men are brought back to their normal human size again, and may begin to think like you and me about injustice, oppression and occupation.

Israel’s very own Guantanamos

Khaled Amayreh in occupied East Jerusalem, Al-Ahram Weekly 6/19/2008
      The "death ride" -- welcome to 21st century torture.
     Israeli maltreatment of Palestinian captives and political prisoners has reached unprecedented levels of brutality, according to lawyers, human rights groups and newly-released prisoners.
     There are currently as many as 12,000 Palestinian detainees languishing in Israeli detention camps, many of them without charge or trial. They include hundreds of university professors, engineers, school teachers as well as religious and civic leaders, students, resistance fighters and women activists.
     Two years ago, the Israeli occupation authorities abducted hundreds of democratically- elected officials, including mayors, members of local city councils, law-makers, and cabinet ministers, many associate with Hamas’s political wing.
     Israel employs a set of draconian laws, some dating back to the British mandate era, to torment Palestinian prisoners. The same laws are also used to lend a façade of legality to other harsh treatment of Palestinians, such as house demolitions, land confiscation and deportation.

Book review: Philosophical essays on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Raymond Deane, Electronic Intifada 6/19/2008
      Cumbersome though it already is, the subtitle of the new book The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Philosophical Essays on Self-Determination, Terrorism, and the One-State Solution could have been expanded to include "The Right of Return," the title of the second of its four long chapters, thus doing fuller justice to its impressive sweep. The authors, Raja Halwani and Tomis Kapitan, are philosophy professors in the US who seek to answer such "critical normative questions" as "When does a group of people have a right to govern or possess a certain territory? Under what conditions are people entitled to political self-determination? What rights accrue to those who have been the victims of territorial aggression? How do political institutions, states or resistance organizations gain moral legitimacy? Is a state ever entitled to territorial expansion and conquest of foreign territory? When is violent resistance to military occupation justified? Can recourse to terrorism ever be legitimate in the context of political struggles?
     Some potential readers may be deterred by the adjective "philosophical," which could without disadvantage have been omitted from the subtitle. While the reader’s concentration is tested by subtle and detailed argumentation, no former acquaintance with philosophical traditions or terminology is required, and abstractions are invariably confronted with their material consequences in everyday political reality. More opinionated readers may feel that, in the authors’ terms, "philosophical discussion of these [normative] questions, especially when applied to particular political conflicts, is hopelessly inconclusive." However, the authors are surely correct in maintaining that "No legal system is the final word about how humans and societies ought to behave, and to restrict normative thought to enactment would immunize positive law from rational evaluation.

The road to hell

Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 6/19/2008
      It is no coincidence that Dr. Matti Steinberg decided to conclude his book about Palestinian consciousness with a verse from Jewish sources: "Blessed is he who does not speak peace only with his tongue, and in his heart there is peace for all. Cursed is he who speaks peace with his tongue, and in his heart there is no peace" (2 Enoch). In Steinberg’s story, those who speak peace only with their tongue are not necessarily speakers of Arabic, and those who have peace in their heart are not necessarily Jews.
     There is no national ’other’ with whom we are more intimate than the Palestinian ’other,’" Steinberg, who was an adviser to three Shin Bet security service chiefs, writes. "Perhaps through them we will be able to learn about ourselves." Steinberg, an expert on Islamic and Middle Eastern affairs from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is considered one of the world’s leading authorities on the Palestinian national movement.
     Steinberg seeks to provide a response to Montaigne’s plaint that we would do well to examine ourselves and devote to the study of ourselves the same time we spend in observing others and getting to know what is outside ourselves. Steinberg has not made do with the academic study of the conflict and its history. For over two decades he has been trying to open the eyes of prime ministers and senior cabinet ministers, Shin Bet chiefs and ranking Israel Defense Forces officers. His jeremiads contain not a whiff of peacenik romanticism. "Even if peace is achieved with the Palestinians, this will not usher in an idyllic pastoral age," he writes, "but there is a big difference between a tolerable situation and an intolerable one. Israel’s avoidance or evasion of paying the set price of a settlement is fraught with far greater danger to its very existence as a democratic Jewish state than ceding part of the territory."

''We could not even bury our daughter''

Report, PCHR, Electronic Intifada 6/19/2008
      On 11 June, eight-year-old Hadeel Al-Sumairi was killed when her home in southeastern Gaza was shelled by Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF). Less than a week earlier, eight-year-old Aya Hamdan al-Najjar was killed by a rocket fired from an IOF helicopter. These two young girls had been living just a few kilometers apart, both in villages in the southeastern Gaza Strip near the border with Israel. Their violent deaths highlight both the continual dangers facing families who live anywhere near the Israeli border -- and the grim and rising child death toll in the Gaza Strip. Sixty-two children have been killed by IOF in the Gaza Strip this year -- almost double the number of children who were killed by the IOF in Gaza during the whole of last year.
     The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) is still investigating the circumstances of Hadeel al-Sumairi’s death. Her uncle, Amin Suleiman Ahmad al-Sumairi, has given PCHR an eye-witness account of the IOF invasion of al-Qarara village near Khan Younis, where Hadeel was killed. "I was at home when I heard a huge explosion. I ran from my house and saw fire coming from the home of my brother, Abdul Karim. As I ran towards the house I could smell burning flesh." IOF had just fired two tank shells into al-Qarara village, and both shells struck the house where Abdul Karim al-Sumairi and his family lived. His daughter, Hadeel, was killed instantly, her small body dismembered.

No internal threats

Basel Oudat, Al-Ahram Weekly 6/19/2008
      The Syrian regime doesn’t have partners and doesn’t allow power sharing, but is willing to listen.
     No power struggle exists in Syria, simply because no group is strong enough to challenge the regime. There are no groups within the regime that band together for political purposes or seek to seize power. Although there are differences of opinion on domestic and foreign policy among top aides, those differences are insignificant. The Syrian regime "has no partners, but only groups of allies or advisers or senior functionaries who may offer an opinion when asked, but no one has a right to speak out of turn or take part in decision-making," one observer said.
     The Syrian regime depends on three major institutions to stay in power: the Baath Party, the army and the security and intelligence apparatus.
     The Baath Party is the sole decision- maker in the country, at least according to the constitution. In real life, however, the party’s National Command (NC, qiyada qotriya ) is little more than a rubberstamp committee. The NC approves without much debate the nomination of ministers, parliamentary members, governors and other top officials. It has never been known to oppose the president or make up its mind on public matters, whether political, economic, or cultural. In brief, the NC is a tool rather than a true associate in power. Its main role is bureaucratic and it doesn’t venture much into decision-making.

AIPAC, The Jewish Holy Worriers

Sami Jamil Jadallah, Palestine Think Tank 6/19/2008
      Unlike the Rolling Thunder, the Veteran group that descends on Washington, DC every Memorial Day to remind us and the nation, certainly the Congress of the brave men and women who gave up their lives for the love of the country and to remind us and the nation of the millions of American men and women who served honorably in the US armed forces, certainly to remind our elected officials of the thousands of MIA’s, the Israeli lobby group, AIPAC and its army of Jewish Holy Worriers descend on Washington shaking the nation and creating a seismic waves in Washington, certainly rattling members of Congress and elected politicians and of course potential presidential candidates with demands for open and declared loyalty to Israel. What different reception each gets from our Congress and our elected officials?
     While some 10,000 Harley Davidson bikers comes to town with hardly any notice from members of Congress, members of AIPAC descend down on Washington making the city and its politicians tremble with fear, shock and owe from its power and influence and the death sentences it can hand down to members of Congress, leading politicians, members of the media certainly presidential candidates if found guilty of disloyalty to Israel.

Dividends of truce

Ian Black, The Guardian 6/19/2008
      Only a foolhardy observer would predict that peace is about to break out in the Middle East because of the ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas - snatched from the jaws of a large-scale Israeli incursion into the Gaza strip after weeks of intensive, rollercoaster, Egyptian mediation.
     Continuing Israeli attacks in Gaza, and Palestinian rocket fire across the border into Israel, are reminders that this is a conflict that will not be easily ended. And there is clearly room for substantial disagreement over key questions: will the Cairo deal include the release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli corporal captured two years ago? Will the Rafah border crossing open at once and who will control it? What if weapons smuggling continues through the maze of tunnels under the border? And what is the link between the situation in Gaza and the West Bank, where the Israelis insist on the right to maintain security?
     Still, six months of tahdiya (the Arabic word means "quiet" rather than "ceasefire") would be a welcome change for ordinary people on both sides. Palestinians have suffered hundreds of dead and injured in recent Israeli raids.

Google Gags Uruknet - More internet censorship

Desert Peace, Palestine Think Tank 6/19/2008
      Editorial: One of my Associates, Uruknet.Info, is once again the victim of Google’s zionist inspired polices. Just a month ago, the co-founder of Google was in Israel to "˜celebrate’ its 60 years as an occupying power"¦ he obviously was inspired by his visit as his Company’s policies seem to have shifted even more to the right than they were before his trip.
     Uruknet has been hacked, taken off Google News indexing and now, the latest"¦ taken off Google completely. How can this be done? We really don’t know, but we do know that Google has refused to respond to the thousands of requests by readers to reinstate Uruknet on Google News. They came up with a response after weeks only to the site itself where it "reasoned" that Uruknet was "only" an aggregator. All of us know that it is an exceptionally important aggregator, but it is far more than that! It contains ...

Obama’s missteps

George Bisharat, Palestine Think Tank 6/18/2008
      On his first day as the presumptive Democratic candidate for president earlier this month, Barack Obama committed a serious foreign policy blunder. Reciting a litany of pro-Israeli positions at the annual meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), he avowed: "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided."
     In promising U.S. support of Israel’s claims to all of Jerusalem, Obama couldn’t have picked a better way to offend the world’s 325 million Arabs and 1.5 billion Muslims. Israel’s 41-year stewardship of the Holy City has alarmed Muslims from Morocco to Malaysia. Upon seizing East Jerusalem in 1967, Israel razed the ancient Muslim Maghribi quarter to make room for Jewish worshipers at the Western Wall. Since 1991, Israel has steadily ratcheted down Palestinians’ access to Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem. Most West Bank Palestinians can no longer worship there.
     Obama’s unnecessary promise deviates from nearly six decades of U.S. foreign policy that held Jerusalem to be occupied territory under international law. This long tradition was first broken in 2004 when President Bush acknowledged Israel’s demands to keep its illegal West Bank settlements in a final peace agreement, including those around Jerusalem. Thus Obama, a Harvard-trained lawyer, would both scorn the international legal system’s foundational principle - the inadmissibility of territorial acquisition by war - and echo President Bush, whose failed Middle East policies he has rightly deplored.